Reality check and adjusting expectations…

Just a quick check in. Mark and I have chewed everything over recently and have come to a conclusion or two. Given that we are both in the same boat that many of us are in economy-wise – I recently got my pay whacked and I’m still up to my eyeballs in alimony – and the realization that to build the car the way we had originally intended would take a few years longer than either of us care to think about, we’re adjusting our performance/equipment expectations a bit.

Originally Mark wanted to build a bulletproof motor with all the best brand new parts, and go with a new powerglide that has a Deadenbear or Reid case and all that jazz. As nice as that would be, we’ve decided that where it makes sense, we’re going to aim for getting good, clean used stuff, and if we end up with a nearly stock SBC and we only run 10’s to begin with, that’s fine. We can always upgrade later. The first outings will probably be sans paint or the swoopy tail section we hope to have eventually. The goal is to get out there and have fun, and then we can revamp and go faster over time. As super cool as it is to have Rocinante as a roller sitting in my garage, the truth is that it gets a little depressing to not make progress, and to know that how we wanted to do the car all zooty to begin with, just pushes finances and a completion date out so far that it gets to be a little disheartening.

Just to be clear, we aren’t deviating from the purpose of this whole deal, which is to build a dragster as period correct as possible, but she’ll be a work in progress. It still might take 6, 7, 8 years before she’s truly finished- but I hope that by that time we will have been running her and having fun for a few years already.

The goal this year is to get the pumpkin, spool and gears, and the brake system finished.

In the mean time, if any of you reading this have, or know about good used stuff that would work for us for not much money, please drop a line. Finned Cal-custom or Corvette style valve covers, a moon style fuel tank, Hilborn-style timing covers, a Hilborn 150 fuel pump or shut off are part of the list of things we could probably swing now if it was cheap enough. Heck, even let us know if there is a decent 283, 327 or 350 out of someone’s hot rod with no place to go, or a decent shorty powerglide that a bracket racer you know no longer needs.

Not saying we could do something right away, but if the price was right, you never know.

I hope that this doesn’t come across as feeling sorry for myself- it certainly isn’t intended that way. It is clearly understood that building a dragster is about as non-essential to survival as anything. But like the role everyone’s hot rods play in their lives, it serves to allow you to dream a little and the joy and excitement of those hopes and plans makes it easier to endure the bumps and bruises that life hands out. So in so many ways, this reality check is liberating and exciting because it puts the carrot on the end of the stick back into view.

Thanks for reading. Here are a few photos for your enjoyment…


9 Responses to “Reality check and adjusting expectations…”

  1. Brian Fox Says:

    Good to see a up date. Keep punching away and this deal will happen. Stepin stones. Brian

  2. Tom Stephens Says:

    Hi Dean,

    It’s nice to see you and Mark have a new plan. While into racing, I have little background in drag racing, but love to hear about your progress.

    I really like the old school dragsters. With that in mind, so, you are using more used parts. Is that not maybe what they did back in the day?


  3. Vince Says:

    Hang in there guys!!! Take your time and do it right. I’m in the planning stages of my build. I’m going to go with a King Chassis and SBC like yours.

    • rocinante rides again Says:

      Thanks Vince! I picked up a bare 8 3/4″ 742 pumpkin a couple of months ago, and fingers are crossed that alimony ends next month so there should be at least a complete rear end by the end of the year, possibly a braking system as well. Next year we’re slated for the engine and powerglide. So it will happen, it wil just take awhile… keep me posted on your build! Dean

  4. Vince Says:

    You might want to post your wanted parts over on the HAMB. Lots of guys there like to help out. Also try the ANRA site, Right now I’m just socking away the cash and a few odds and end parts.

  5. rich_1028 Says:

    I really like the build!
    I’m thinking of getting a front engine dragster some day.
    how much did you have in it when it left the chassis shop?

    I read that you sent him the strange axles,what spline did you go with?
    and what needs to be done once it leaves the chassis shop?

    wheels, tires,brakes, and a 3rd member?

    does it come with all the stering that is shown in the pictures?

    where do you get the throtle pedal,and the brake pedal at?

    keep up the great work,and yes I know it takes time,and in this economy it may take even more…


    • rocinante rides again Says:

      Hi Rich! Thanks for the nice comments and taking the time to read the blog and drop a line! As it sits now, the dragster has about $10K into it. You can certainly buy a turnkey bracket-style FED for that money if the racing aspect is what is most important. Our approach is that this is as much a hot rod as a race car (if not more) so building it exactly the way we want is important- with the caveat that we have to accept the fact that we can’t change the safety stuff that is required to run it, (and we’re not interested in a cackle car ) and that ends up dictating some of the aesthetics. This will never be a high horsepower car, so we went with the 30 spline axles. Perhaps some day we’ll creep into the high 8s, but more than likely it will be a 9-second car its whole life. Running a short wheelbase and really not wanting to run a wheelie bar dictates that. If we have to go with a single caster, we’ll make that concession because it’s period, but we’d rather not.

      I think Brian will build it to whatever stage of completion you’d like. We got the frame, front axle, all the steering components, weight box, a shortened axle housing and a shorty aluminum body. We basically bought the steering box, spindles and rear axles and had them drop-shipped to Brian, so those weren’t part of the King Chassis price. We’ll fab the pedals, brackets, and controls ourselves, and I’m going to fab a wraparound rear tail section as well.

      It was important to me to have the roll cage have the same kind of layback on the 6-point cage that the old 3-point cages in the ’60s had, and in order to do this, I had Brian add 4″ behind the rear axle than he does on his other builds. I don’t care for the look of many updated cars that have an upright roll cage, because there is no space to add the front hoop and have it layback. What this does though is puts your legs at a different poisition when sitting in the car than most FEDs. Rather than having the rear axle under your knees, your calves rest on the rear axle- meaning we’ll have to fab pedals that ride high and closer to the cowl, than off the bottom frame rail like most FEDs. We could make it a legs-under car- but sitting in the car that way is a little spooky. I don’t know that I could ever get comfortable with that, because you really feel trapped and there would be no way to get out of the car in a hurry if you got into trouble. I’m not even sure a legs under car would be legal nowadays.

      I should have a blog update in the next month or so. The rear end is out of the car and will be on its way back to Brian in a few days to have another 1 1/4″ lopped off each side to bring the wheels closer to the body, the wraparound tail section should get built this winter, a spool will be ordered next month, and possibly gears as well. The big news is that it’s looking like we’ll have the engine and tranny in it by Spring. there will still be a ton to do, but it will be meaningful progress!

      All the best,

  6. Donald Hesprich Says:

    I left a reply on “about’ listing parts I have….take a look….

    • rocinante rides again Says:

      Hi Don! Thanks for taking the time to get in touch. I’m sorry for the delay in replying. We’re in California, so shipping would be a little cost prohibitive, and we’ve pretty much mapped out exactly what we’re going to do engine and trans-wise and sourced everything, so it’s a just a matter of finishing up saving for it so we can do it at once. We’re going to go with the old-style Vertex magneto and an earlier style SBC. We’re looking on getting started on the engine in February. Thanks again for thinking of us!

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